Every two years, hundreds of people from around the country descend on picturesque Asilomar State Beach in Monterey for a camping retreat. There are bonfires, dining halls and movie nights, but this isn’t just any old camp for kids; it’s the Monterey Design Conference.
Organized by the American Institute of Architects California Council (AIACC), the “MDC” is one of the premier architecture and design speaker series. Just imagine the great architectural minds sitting next to you during a lecture, or eating dinner with famous designers you’ve only seen in magazines; that’s MDC.
This was the first MDC experience for me and two of my Dreyfuss + Blackford colleagues, Ginger and Gary. Each of us were selected to assist a guest speaker while in Monterey. My speaker was Shohei Shigematsu, a partner at the global design firm OMA (Office of Metropolitan Architecture). I enjoyed learning how Shohei’s office pursues design competitions and manages projects for high-profile clients like Facebook. He also offered me some wise advice for my long road ahead in the profession.
After several guest speakers presented their work to the audience, it was interesting to see an overarching project theme. Many architects took advantage of sites and surrounding landscapes and integrated them into their buildings. From the way Philadelphia firm Digsau used regional limestone in their striated, geologic walls, to how New York office Weiss / Manfredi created hybrids with their architectural objects and landscapes, it was clear these talented architects loved to blur the line between manmade structures and natural environments.
As many of the guests at the conference remarked, Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds is the perfect setting for an architect and designer retreat. Many of the Arts and Crafts-style buildings were designed by Julia Morgan and incorporate wood and stone from the local region. As we wandered the 107-acre grounds, the buildings were so well suited for the unspoiled landscape and environment, it was hard not to admire the intricate detailing and be inspired.
Getting to know these noteworthy architects during the weekend was an unforgettable experience. It was really refreshing to discover that in addition to being so talented, they are also down to earth, hard-working people. Rubbing elbows, listening to thought-provoking speakers and enjoying the beautiful Monterey coastline – I can’t think of a better way to spend a three-day weekend.